The Missouri Tigers are better than Texas A&M. They just are.
They’ve beaten the Aggies already. Their record is better. They’ve played a harder schedule and beaten better teams than the Aggies. The Tigers shoot better, have a better coaching staff and recruited a better starting line up. They’ve put up better numbers—if only slightly. They should, by all evidence, beat the Aggies in their first game of the SEC tournament at the Georgia Dome on Thursday.
But the sad reality is, they might lose. If I were a betting man, I’d probably place money on the Aggies.
Unfortunately, Mizzou appears to be lacking in the very important elements that it takes to win in a tournament setting, or even win another game this season. Let’s go over those now:
- Energy, urgency, motivation
- Cohesiveness or team chemistry of any kind
- Rebounding and defense
- Some sort of positive momentum to ride on
That is why Texas A&M nearly beat the Missouri Tigers on their home floor last week. And that is why the Missouri basketball team might watch its season, for all intents purposes, end on Thursday afternoon in the same building that the football team watched its dreams of a national championship bid go up in flames.
Missouri is a better team in my book. But these players have shown that they do not have the focus and maturity that is necessary for making a tournament run, even if it wasn’t the daunting Florida Gators waiting on the other side, which it is.
For the Missouri Tigers, it’s simple. They need top-of-the-line performances from their two stars, SEC All-Americans Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. They need to find a way to rebound the way it did in the first meeting when it beat the Aggies on the glass 39-24. They must move the ball around—use that scary four letter word they seem to avoid like the plague: P-A-S-S. (The Tigers only tallied 5 assists in the last meeting. FIVE!) They must find the energy that it momentarily gathered in their win two games ago against Mississippi State. And they must believe they can win.
Texas A&M plays solid defense and Missouri must find the way to work the ball inside instead of settling for ill-advised or hurried jump shots. On defense, they’ll have their hands full stopping Jamal Jones and Alex Caruso who combined for 29 points and more assists than the entire Tigers roster combined. Texas A&M jumped out to hot start in the last game and Mizzou must keep that from happening, otherwise it could be the Tennessee game all over again.
If Mizzou wants to make a statement and stay on everyone’s radar for the future, this is the game to win. They can’t get caught looking ahead to a possible game with Florida, who won all of its SEC games this season.
The Tigers are a better team than Texas A&M. They’ll get a chance to prove it today. But will they? Doubts, my friends. Doubts.
Here are some footnotes to consider:
Mizzou’s Tournament Outlook
What the Tigers’ outlook is can be easily answered by looking at who their opponent will be in the second round of the tournament if they somehow win against Texas A&M. Let’s just say that unless the NCAA suddenly adds a new rule allowing trades and Missouri and Florida trade their entire rosters with each other, I don’t think the Tigers are getting past a second game.
Mizzou effectively forfeited almost all of its chances of making it to the Big Dance by vomiting all over itself in the last game of the season against Tennessee. Voters watched as the Tigers not only lost big, they also looked disinterested, as if they didn’t even want to play in a tournament.
Well, it looks like they probably won’t have to. It would take a miracle to make it. They’d have to route A&M and barely lose—or probably win—against Florida, then hope that Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia all lost. Even then, the odds are not in their favor.
If the Tigers are unable to beat Texas A&M, a team they should beat even though they looked awful against them last time around, it’s possible that Frank Haith will have coached his last game with them.
Many people are calling for the coach to be relieved of duty, especially in light of recent poor performance in not the strongest of conferences. Haith guided Mizzou to three straight 20 win seasons and put together a 30-4 record and No. 2 seed in the tournament in his first year.
The success has faded—or rather nose dived—and the last two seasons have given more credence to the idea that the first season’s accomplishments were based more on the previous regime’s efforts and not of his own.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
TV/Time: SEC TV, ESPN 3, 12:00 P.M. CDT
Prediction: Texas A&M 61, Missouri 56